The Balanced Budget Amendment Convention can not propose an amendment that does not clearly and directly help to balance the federal budget. If it does anything more, it’s a “runaway”. The Federal Lands Commission, created to transfer federal land to the states, with the feds retaining a beneficial interest in the proceeds of that land’s development, clearly fits the bill. It would generate tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars to the Treasury. Serious regulatory reform would have an even greater impact on the Treasury. The economic expansion which would result from such a reform would provide so much revenue to the Treasury that we would not only balance the budget, we could start paying down the debt.
So, how do we do that? Lew Uhler’s been giving it a lot of thought. He’s 83, but he is still a very intelligent and informed man, with vast experience at the upper levels of policy making. We talked at length today, and he’s assembled a bundle of reading material for me. I told him I’d ordered Philip Hamburger’s “Is the Administrative State Unconstitutional?” Some of the material he’s sending me is from Hamburger. We agree with Hamburger, and a growing body of conservative legal scholars, that it’s all unconstitutional. A regulation is, for all intents and purposes, a law, except it was not introduced, no Congressional hearings were held, no legislature debated and voted, and no chief executive signed it. In creating the EPA and other federal agencies, Congress unconstitutionally delegated its law making power. True regulatory reform would simply eliminate such rule making authority from all federal agencies. If the EPA wanted to regulate something, it would have to ask Congress to pass the regulation in the form of a statute.
That’s the elegant way to do regulatory reform. It would do wonders for the economy, and thus for the Treasury. It fits within the call. The problem is not legal, it’s political. I was hoping to find something in Hamburger’s book that might help us frame this thing, politically, so it doesn’t scare the horses. I need the support of the gal down at the 7-11. Would this scare her? If I asked her, she’d say no. I have a pretty good idea of where she comes from. But what would our opposition say? That we’re radicals? Reactionaries?
Are the American economy, and the well being of the American people, dependent on the rule making power of federal agencies? Is our modern society so complex, and in such need of regulation, that it can’t function without constantly being regulated? What, exactly, is being regulated, and why? Is the need for regulation so great that Congress would be unable to cope? I don’t know the answer to all these questions. I’d like to have some answers before the August 3rd Legislative Summit in Seattle. I have no intention of composing a draft Amendment for consideration, and that will not be the product of the Summit. But when we talk about regulatory reform I want to know what I’m talking about. The Federal Lands Commission is pretty straightforward, and the impact it would have is easily predictable. What I want to do with regulatory reform — declare the rule making power of federal agencies to be unconstitutional — is also pretty straightforward. Its impact would be enormous. How would it work in the real world? What would actually happen if it were adopted? Someone, somewhere, has thought about that, and written about it. I want to hear what other people think. And then I want to really think this through, politically.
My first campaign was for class President of the third grade at St. Cornelius in Richmond, California. None of us had the slightest idea of what being a class President meant, but Sister Mary Joseph wanted to have an election. This was one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met in my life. She was only in her early twenties, and very petite. There were 54 of us in her classroom every day, and she never had a disciplinary problem. We were well behaved little Catholic boys and girls, in uniform. Sister Mary Joseph liked me, but she liked to bring me down a peg or two. For my own good. I think that’s why we had the election. I lost to Don James, a chalk board monitor. But I learned something in my loss, which has been of great value.
Most of the girls voted for me.